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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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January: Opening the Door to ’24
January 2024

Have you ever approached a door truly fearful of what is behind it?

(And no, I’m not talking about Door No. 1, Door No. 2 or Door No. 3 on “Let’s Make a Deal!”).

No one will deny that 2023 was a year like pool has never witnessed. It was tournament madness, with a packed slate of events for men, women and juniors that had pool players crisscrossing the globe, getting massive exposure from professionally produced coverage on networks and streams, and competing for lucrative purses.

Of course, all that activity came at a cost, both financially and philosophically.

The demand on players was fierce. Of course, no player has a gun held to his or her head to participate in any event, but the opportunity to compete against the best and play for the biggest prizes is what drives pool’s cadre of mercenaries. Conservative estimates put the cost of playing in most/all of the top men’s events (entry fees, travel, hotel, meals) at $40,000 in 2023. Naturally, some of the top players benefitted from sponsorship deals or national federation contracts that either paid them an annual stipend or footed the tab for specific events. In truth, precious few “pros” enjoy that kind of assistance, and even then, current prize money distribution dictates that anything lower than ninth place puts red ink on the trip. That’s rough.

The Matchroom World NineBall Tour launched to great reviews and commitment from the top players and featured an expanded calendar, while Predator continued to produce comparable events featuring significant prize money and a slew of sanctioned world championship tournaments.

Ah, there’s that word: Sanctioned. If pool gave out an award for Word of the Year, “sanctioned” would win in a landslide in 2023.

Success always leads to turf protection and ego. And pool’s overall success in 2023 was no exception. As has been revisited ad nauseum, Matchroom’s bold strategy of branding and owning its own world tour led to the game’s official sanctioning body, the World Pool Association (WPA), to draw a line in the sand for the world’s players. Starting in March 2024, players will have to choose between sanctioned events (events in which a player’s WPA member federation is connected) and non-sanctioned events (read: Matchroom).

As time goes on, this Matchroom-WPA battle will have a ripple effect that touches both international women’s and junior’s events. In fact, there are already inklings that the rapid development of junior pool in the U.S. may well lead to schisms and turf wars in 2024 as well, and what a shame that would be. Are we really going to make aspiring junior players pick sides here?

And so, I tread lightly when reaching for the doorknob that will gain me entrance into 2024.

Matchroom has already boasted of a further expanding global calendar, Predator has announced a handful of exciting new events and formats, and the WPA insists that monster tournaments are knocking at their door for sanctioning.

And, after a lengthy dryspell, the increase in action and exposure has lured numerous industry manufacturers back into the player contract arena, which should take a lot of the burden off top players.

On paper, 2024 looks to be another wild ride for the world’s players, one that could be the best the sport has every enjoyed — if we can just get the sport’s leaders to pull in the same direction.

Let’s hope the old saying, “When one door closes, another opens” has positive meaning for pool in ’24.

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